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Seeking suggestions this weekend in northwest suburbs

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We're two couples from NYC area and we'll be staying in the Norristown-Valley Forge vicinity, and we'll have a car, so we can go pretty much anywhere worth driving to. Looking for good restaurant options for dinner, with one of us being a non-meat-eater (fish ok). Great food is key, but we'd like a comfortable setting too (white tablecloth-ish, not too cramped) if it can be had. We'll be looking for dinners on Friday and Saturday nights, so it can't be someplace where we should've reserved weeks ago.

Also could use a good brunch suggestion for Saturday.

Thanks to all.

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  1. Blackfish in Conshohocken (next door to Norristown) pretty much meets all your criteria (maybe slightly tight and energetic, but nothing excessive). One of the best restaurants in the Philly area:

    http://www.blackfishrestaurant.com

    BYOB, so stop by the nearby PLCB store first to pick up some wine:

    http://www.finewineandgoodspirits.com...

    1. +1 for Blackfish.

      10 Replies
      1. re: crazyspice

        No way that you will get into blackfish on a friday or Saturday night without a reservation. It is summertime and if the weather stays warm and sunny, the burbs may clear out to go down the shore so I guess you could be in luck. I wouldn't assume that a lot of the good restaurants in the area you will be staying in will definitely have room on a friday or sat night. If you don't mind waiting for a table you may be in luck there. Maybe radice in blue bell? Savona in Gulph mills? Blue fin sushi in east norriton? Spring mill cafe in conshy? Seasons 52 in KOP (never been but my parents likes it which actually isn't always a ringing endorsement of a place). Blackfish will be great if you can get a reservation - and it's tight in there. Like almost NYC tight.

        I just moved back to the philly area after 13 years in the manhattan and Brooklyn so if you have a particular place in NYC that you are thinking of, I'll see if I can give you any tips.

        Btw - if you are willing to be more adventurous and don't mind a very casual atmosphere, there are some great Korean and Mexican options in the norristown area. No white tablecloths though!

        Good luck.

        1. re: amysep

          I don't want to threadjack, but would you mind sharing your Korean and Mexican recommendations in and near Norristown?

          1. re: mookleknuck

            No problem! This is gonna e a total thread jack (sorry) I'm actually shocked at how little talk there is about some of the pretty good ethnic restaurants we have in the burbs.

            Mexican:
            The first place I have to big up is El Primo (norristown). No lie, this place is better than most of the Mexican places I used to frequent in sunset park, Brooklyn (where most of the NYC Mexicans live). It's in a small strip mall and you have to walk thru a pretty awesome Mexican grocer to the back restaurant. The people are friendly and the food is delicious. They serve you a really delish homemade tortilla chips that are smothered in this (not sure what it is but this is a guess) brown bean juice mixture mixed with crema. It's addictive. Everything we have eaten has been fresh, authentic and delicious.

            Next I can recommend Taqueria la Michoacana on Norristowns Main Street. His place is much more of a real restaurant and had many diverse local Mexican diners as well as people coming from different burbs (and families which is always a bonus to me). Food was really good with plenty of authentic menu items. They also have a bar. The menudo was awesome.

            Finally, I haven't been yet, but hear great things about el rincon de Mexico, Parasio and Carnaceria de Los Compadres. All on Main Street or a few block in off of main st. in norristown.

            El limon taqueria in conshy is good too. We are getting their second outpost in ambler soon and I can not wait.

            As for Korean, I have to say the options are so good. Not being able to go to some of my favorite Korean joints in NYC was prob the only thing I thought I'd miss about living there. Then I moved to montgomery county and realized we have a huge Korean population. I've tried many of the local joints and these are the ones I can recommend:

            First Assi plaza has become a staple for my fam. Grabbing something quick to eat there is pretty good. Wanna make something korean at home, they have everything you need. Very causal and quick.

            To Dam Gol korean restaurant in blue bell. This hole in the wall is awesome and shouldn't intimidate suburban diners. It's almost always 99% Korean in there and the little old lady that runs around doing almost everything is friendly. Their menu is smaller and much more focused on dishes and stews than BBQ. I think they offer BBQ but not table side. Personally, go to try new dishes at this home style place.

            Next, surah in the giant shopping center in springhouse. This place is modern and kinda nice inside (less sweaty looking and more swanky-ish... For a strip mall restaurant). The table BBQ is really delicious with a variety of things offered. It looks like its family run and everyone is super cool and friendly. Their jjigaes are really delish as well. Had their sushi (why do korean restaurants in the burbs always feel the need to also serve sushi?) which is nice but expensive. If stick w the Korean there. They have a few huge family dining rooms that were filled with 25-30 Korean families the times we were there.

            Stonewell in conshy is supposed to be good but I haven't been.

            Finally I HAVE to give a shout to Cafe Soho 2 in blue bell. Honestly, forget New York and their supposedly good KFC (Korean fried chicken). Nothing comes close to as good as the KFC that cafe soho produces. If you've nice had KFC before and you are in the mood for the crispiest and most delicious chicken wings ever, please go. They offer 5 Different flavored - my fave being the spicy which is actually SPICY. Not sure what it is about the Thai and Indian joints around the burbs but most of the time spicy means not spicy. I usually get what I want by asking the restaurant to not make it "suburban white person spicy"... They actually know what I want then. The soy and garlic are also amazing. They just got rid of their old menu which, natch, used to serve sushi. No longer trying to do the Korean/sushi thing they are using the same menu as cafe soho 1. Can't wait to try some of their other Korean dishes. We did order their cutlet w rice and sauce the other day and it was really good. These people know how to fry.

            Anyways, there ya go! We are so lucky to have some great auhentic ethnic options in the burbs. Get out and give them a try!

            One last shout - honestly the best Indian I've had. It's in North wales called Persis. It's a hyderabadi restaurant with some amazingly different offerings. I should write a chow post just for them.

            Ok I'm done!

            1. re: amysep

              thanks for all of those - you've given some great suggestions I can't wait to try.

              1. re: amysep

                Amysep: Please tell me where Stonewell is in Conshy. I know of The Stone Rose but never heard of Stonewell.
                Do you maybe mean Spring Mill Cafe?

                1. re: arepo

                  It's sushi and Korean and at 415 ridge pike. Bw chemical road and butler.

                2. re: amysep

                  Went to El Primo last weekend & we will definitely be back! I had the best chile relleno ever. The market was an extra bonus. My son had to do some extra credit work for his Spanish class so we scored big time! Another great chow hound recommendation.

                  1. re: yummykimmy

                    Excellent! It's one of those places I am torn to tell people about Bc it's that awesome but I know chowhounders get it. So great to bring your son here - love the younger generations getting into culture and authentic foods early on. My 2 1/2 year old went crazy for the piñatas! Glad you checked it out...

                    1. re: amysep

                      This is my private place, so please stop telling everyone about it!

                      1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                        LOL @phillybestbyob. As of today, my lips are sealed!! Are YOURS too? Pinky swear.

          2. I would suggest a trip to phoenixville
            there you have the wonderful vecchia pizza, very authentic neopolitan style, and also Sips bistro, which is very authentically french and has a nice happy hour deal and good wine selection
            Also in Berwyn, there is Nectar restuarant, noisy for dinner but fine for lunch.

            1. Nectar is really good but NOISY!!!!!!!!!!
              Especially on weekends.
              I would suggest Susannah Foo's in Radnor. You won't have to read lips on a Saturday night.
              Right next door to Foo's is a steak place, Flemings -- if you are into the chops and steaks thing.
              Also, for a fine meal in a small place (12 tables) on Friday night is Sola in Bryn Mawr. If you dine early enough you'll miss the noise factor.
              Blackfish in Conshohocken is also good but again, very small and can get very tight on weekends.

              1. I'd suggest Silver Spoon in Wayne.I've only been there once (and loved it) but my friends who are very particular go all the time and love it. Nice ambiance, good food and solid service. One thing, though. They're BYO so you'll need to pick up a bottle...or two.

                http://www.silverspoonwayne.com

                1. Since you say you can go anywhere worth driving to, why not go to the city? So many good options there.

                  1. So here's how it ended up. Driving down to Philly Friday afternoon we made some calls looking for reservations both in the burbs (per suggestions here) and the city (per Jan's suggestion). As Amysep predicted, we had little luck, unless we were willing to wait until 10pm, which we weren't. But we did make a reservation for Saturday night 9pm at Osteria. I'll post separately about that.

                    Friday night we ended up at Bar Savona. Could've gone to plain Savona but the prices scared us off. Asked for a reservation for 8, got one for 830, and then got a callback from the restaurant telling us that they could do 8 after all, which we appreciated. Bar Savona is a very comfortable space and the service was very attentive, but the food was only good -- not what I'd call impressive or memorable. None of the dishes misfired but none of them really soared either.

                    Thanks to all for your suggestions and Mookleknuck, no need to apologize for threadjacking, at least IMHO. That's part of the Chowhound appeal. You never know where the convo is gonna lead.

                    6 Replies
                    1. re: Mickey C

                      Can someone explain to me the difference between Savona and Bar Savona?

                      I've dined many times at Bar Savona (and always thought it was very good, and love their pizza for takeout on our movie nights), and have been seated seemingly everywhere in the building except the wine cellar.

                      Is there a separate space specifically for Savona, or do they just seat you with the proles and then charge you twice as much?

                      1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                        Online it looks like 2 different menus with 2 different price ranges.

                        At the restaurant, as you entered, it appeared that if you walked straight ahead on the main floor to the back (which is actually the part of the building closest to the street since you enter the bldg from the parking lot in the rear) you'd be in a room with tables that actually sported white tablecloths. I'd guess that that's regular Savona. We were seated upstairs in a room where the tables had no tablecloths at all.

                        Of course, my experience is limited to one meal two nights ago, so what do I know?

                        1. re: PhillyBestBYOB

                          Here's what happened to us: we had made reservations at Bar Savona, asking to be seated in the bar. When we got there for our reservation, the bar was jammed and noisy, with one high-top in the midst of the crowd. We asked if we could be seated on the porch, but they were having a private party.

                          We ended up being seated in the almost empty restaurant in a small dark, empty room with very small tables. When we asked if we could move to one of the empty, larger tables by the window, we were told we couldn't sit there if we were ordering from the less expensive Bar Savona menu. I was really disturbed by that policy, especially with an empty restaurant. We eventually both ordered from the fine dining menu, at which point they graciously allowed us to move to the larger table by the windows. I wonder what they would have done if only one of us ordered from the fine dining menu.

                          This is a long-winded way do saying that although the food is good, we won't be going back. I didn't appreciate being treated like a peon because I preferred the Bar Savona menu when I went in.

                          1. re: Jdbc

                            I can certainly see from a business stand point that if they have two restaurants, with two very different price points, it would make no sense for them to just seat you in the more expensive one unless you were actually ordering from that menu. Better food, better service, more privacy, whatever makes it worth more, you shouldn't expect to get it for free.

                            Do you expect to be seated in The Modern at MoMA (one of the best restaurants in NYC), but only order from the menu for The Bar at The Modern (both are full restaurants, which are only separated by a partial glass wall) just because the former is empty, actually closed, and the latter is packed with families visiting MoMA? Or order from Per Se's bar menu while getting Per Se's incredible dining room service?

                            Although I have to admit having 12 ballet-trained servers serve me bar food sounds pretty cool.

                            1. re: Jdbc

                              "I wonder what they would have done if only one of us ordered from the fine dining menu."

                              me too...
                              'I'm sorry that the two of you will not be able to sit together this evening...'

                              In Paris cafes - not that this is necessarily unique to Paris, just that this is one of the places I know - you can sit at a table and just order drinks, *unless* the table has a tablecloth on it, in which case you must order food. You still wind up with some awkward situations from time to time, but at least the whole situation has a visual clarity to it.

                              1. re: Bob Loblaw

                                Did not know that.

                                I do like how in Paris at sidewalk cafes you can just order 1 drink, and then you pretty much own the table for the rest of the day, even if you don't order anything else.

                                Of course, there are so many sidewalk cafes, there has to be a lot less pressure to get people in and out. As long as you are sitting there, you ***might*** still order something else.